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Missing and Unidentified Human Remains (MUHR) Program


The Missing and Unidentified Human Remains (MUHR) Program provides funding to eligible entities to report and identify missing persons and unidentified human remains across the United States. The program aims to enhance the reporting, transportation, forensic testing, and identification of missing persons and unidentified human remains, including migrants. The MUHR Program, administered for the first time in fiscal year 2022 by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, furthers the U.S. Department of Justice’s mission by increasing public safety by providing resources to locate and identify missing persons and unidentified human remains in the United States, and complements the National Institute of Justice National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) Program.


To learn more about the MUHR Program and potential funding opportunities, please visit Missing and Unidentified Human Remains (MUHR) Program.

Passed by Congress in 1999, Jennifer’s Law authorized the Attorney General to issue grants to state and local jurisdictions to increase their capacity to report missing and unidentified persons. Jennifer’s Law is named after Jennifer Marie Wilmer, a 21-year-old woman who went missing in California in 1993 and has not been found. Jennifer’s family, along with Congressional Representatives, enacted Jennifer’s Law to ease the suffering of families dealing with a missing loved one in the hopes that grant funding would allow more information about missing persons and unidentified human remains to be entered into databases. Under Jennifer's Law, MUHR Program grantees are required to report unidentified human remains into databases such as NamUs, the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and the FBI’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP).

In the United States, over 600,000 individuals go missing every year, while more than 40,000 bodies recovered in the United States remain unidentified at any given time¹. In addition, an estimated 4,400 unidentified bodies are recovered each year by ME/C offices, and approximately 1,000 of those recovered bodies remain unidentified after one year². Furthermore, there is a backlog of missing and unidentified human remains cases that are waiting to undergo forensic testing and be entered into national databases. Funding from the MUHR Program not only helps jurisdictions to become more self-reliant and self-sufficient in reducing their backlog, but also enables them to become more efficient in identifying and repatriating individuals to their loved ones.


[1] Between 2007 and 2020, an average of 664,776 missing persons records were entered annually into the National Crime Information Center. See https://www.fbi.gov/services/cjis/ncic.

[2] In 2004, the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ Census of Medical Examiner and Coroners’ Offices estimated that each year medical examiner and coroner offices handle about 4,400 unidentified bodies, with approximately 1,000 of those bodies remaining unidentified after one year. See https://bjs.ojp.gov/content/pub/pdf/meco04.pdf.






The National Institute of Justice’s Report to Congress: Needs Assessment of Forensic Laboratories and Medical Examiner/Coroner Offices

In conducting this needs assessment, the Department identified the importance of strengthening these types of efforts through the increased use and institutionalization of systems-based approaches. Further, this needs assessment compiles demonstrative evidence of how the field adapts to advancements in technology, changes in the volume and types of forensic evidence...

Strengthening the Medicolegal-Death-Investigation System: Improving Data Systems

This document was developed by the Fast-Track Action Committee on Strengthening the Medicolegal-Death-Investigation System. The document was published by OSTP. (Description taken directly from document) Continue reading…...

Needs Assessment of Forensic Laboratories and Medical Examiner/Coroner Offices

The Justice for All Reauthorization Act of 2016 (JFARA) mandated a needs assessment of forensic laboratories, which included an examination of workload, backlog,1 personnel, and equipment needs for both public crime laboratories and medical examiner and coroner (ME/C) offices. In conducting this needs assessment, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)...
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What is the Missing Migrant Program?

The Missing Migrant Program (MMP) seeks to prevent the loss of life amongst the migrant population traversing through the southern border in accordance with the Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains Act of 2019. (Description taken directly from US Customs and Border Protection website) Continue reading…...

NamUs Website

National Missing and Unidentified Persons System Website Continue reading…...

BJA Forensic Grants 101 – Grant Application and Award Acceptance

This presentation reviews application submission and the peer review process for competitive grant programs. Continue reading…...
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DOJ Interim Policy Forensic Genetic Genealogical DNA Analysis and Searching

The purpose of this interim policy is to promote the reasoned exercise of investigative, scientific, and prosecutorial discretion in cases that involve forensic genetic genealogical DNA analysis and searching (‘FGGS’). (Description taken directly from the policy document) Continue reading…...
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Research coming soon.
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DeKalb DA announces break in 30-year-old homicide case, Rebecca Burke identified

The DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office has been awarded a three-year Missing and Unidentified Human Remains (MUHR) Program grant in the amount of $500,000 to identify the remains of 27 individuals found in DeKalb County. The DeKalb County Cold Case Task Force will use these funds to catalog, report, test...
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Upcoming Events

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Past Events

1st Annual BJA Forensics Programs Grantees Meeting

On behalf of the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), the Forensics Training and Technical Assistance (Forensics TTA) Team, led by RTI International, is hosting the 1st Annual BJA Forensics Programs Grantees Meeting, scheduled for October 2-3, 2023! Continue reading…...
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